Monday, July 20, 2015

Pixote: the Survival of the Weakest 1981

What is life through the eyes of one abandoned parent-less in the slum quarters dominated by violence  and crime? This Brazilian film is about the boy Pixote, his consignment to the concentration like reformation centre, escape therefrom, and subsequent descent into the world of drugs and pimping. In the final scene,he prances along a railway track, hopeful in the present as he faces futurelessness. In real life, we read, Pixote was killed at the age of 19. The film strikes an objective rather than a sorrowful one--life has its highs and lows, even in what we call the dregs.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Timbuktu 2014

Timbuktu is a town in Mali, a West African country jutting into the desert. The country experienced a brief interregnum of religious extremism in the very recent past. Music and football were banned,  women had to wear gloves and socks. Armed and hooded extremists blared orders as they moved around the streets on motorcycles. The life of a cattle herder and his wife and daughter is caught in the vice of this ludicrous fanatical dispensation, culminating in tragedy. The common people react with disgust and indignation to the ugliness of the period. People are much the same anywhere, and it is easy to identify with these inhabitants of an exotic country. It is fact that nobility, humanity and courage is more often to be found among common folk than those in high places. Not least of the charms is the graceful tempo of the film as it gently takes hold of our senses with its images of men, women, children, animals and the dust blown structures of the fringes of the Sahara desert. A highly informative film.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Salaam Bombay(92), Mississipi Masala(94), Monsoon Wedding(2001)

Mira Nair is a gifted auteur, rich in cinematic vision, the joy of life and natural empathy.  Of these three films I have seen in a row and the above mentioned sequence, the latest is the best, with a special appeal for a North Indian audience. She has captured to near perfection the cultural foibles, absurdities and mores which can no where better come into distillation than the vast canvas of a traditional wedding in a well to do Punjabi family. This being her own milieu, her ear and eye are microcopically attuned. This is a heady blend which reminds me, of all things, of Breughal's earthy and sublime painting of a peasant wedding in 16th century Holland. The rumbustious marathon celebration with much ribaldry presided by the throated voice of Sukhwinder's Punjabi pop (the ultimate spice of the setting) is fittingly and miraculously crowned with a monsoon downpour just as the groom's procession arrives, trooping and tripping (and whooping) into the tarpaulin's in a mood of  abandonment. This is a slice of life! Presciently, Mira Nair shares with Ray the honor as one of two Indian origin directors to win the Golden Lion. One looks forward to more.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Grapes of Wrath 1940 (John Ford)

Three quarters down the film, I recalled (disappointingly) having seen it before. The movie, set in a different place and time, and so acclaimed, did not move me half as much, its elemental force notwithstanding.

Frank Nugent Review
Roger Ebert Review

Friday, June 12, 2015

Aleksandr Nevsky 1938

This is a film made during the Stalin era in the USSR. It was a time when the Nazi threat was looming. The film relates to a historic 13th century battle in which invading Germans were defeated under the leadership of Prince Aleksandr, whose name has passed into national legend. The film has the epic style resembling David Lean, in its capture of the historic battle faught on a frozen river. The review linked below is a gem in its own genre. Director: Sergei Eisenstein.

Frank Nugent Review